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Why University Athletes Choose Not to Reveal Their Concussion Symptoms During a Practice or Game

Delaney, J. Scott MDCM*,†; Lamfookon, Charles MDCM; Bloom, Gordon A. PhD§; Al-Kashmiri, Ammar MD; Correa, José A. PhD

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: March 2015 - Volume 25 - Issue 2 - p 113–125
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000112
Original Research

Objective: To determine why athletes decide not to seek medical attention during a game or practice when they believe they have suffered a concussion.

Design: A retrospective survey.

Setting: University Sport Medicine Clinic.

Participants: A total of 469 male and female university athletes from several varsity team sports were participated in the study.

Main Outcome Measures: Athletes were surveyed about the previous 12 months to identify specific reasons why those athletes who believed they had suffered a concussion during a game or practice decided not to seek attention at that time, how often these reasons occurred, and how important these reasons were in the decision process.

Results: Ninety-two of the 469 athletes (19.6%) believed they had suffered a concussion within the previous 12 months while playing their respective sport, and 72 of these 92 athletes (78.3%) did not seek medical attention during the game or practice at least once during that time. Sports in which athletes were more likely to not reveal their concussion symptoms were football and ice hockey. The reason “Did not feel the concussion was serious/severe and felt you could still continue to play with little danger to yourself,” was listed most commonly (55/92) as a cause for not seeking medical attention for a presumed concussion.

Conclusions: A significant percentage of university athletes who believed they had suffered a concussion chose not to seek medical attention at the time of injury. Improved education of players, parents, and coaches about the dangers of continuing to play with concussion symptoms may help improve reporting.

Clinical Relevance: Medical staff should be aware that university athletes who believe they have suffered a concussion may choose not to volunteer their symptoms during a game or practice for a variety of personal and athletic reasons.

*McGill Sport Medicine Clinic, Montreal, Quebec, Canada;

Department of Emergency Medicine, McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada;

Royal College Emergency Medicine Residency Program, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada;

§Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada;

Department of Emergency Medicine, Khoula Hospital, Muscat, Oman; and

Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Corresponding Author: J. Scott Delaney, MDCM, McGill Sport Medicine Clinic, 475 Pine Ave West, Montreal, QC H2W 1S4, Canada (j.delaney@staff.mcgill.ca).

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Received October 04, 2013

Accepted March 05, 2014

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